May 21 2016
CARVED Part 04: The Knife’s Edge
Rodolfo Estoque gulped as he held up a clear plastic bag full of white powder. The crystals shone in the light of the sun. He cleared his throat and said, “This is –”
“The finest product on the streets,” proclaimed Carlo. “Made with love by yours truly.”
Rod eyed Carlo suspiciously. Carlo flashed a toothy grin that stretched from ear to ear. His teeth were stained yellow and turning black. They contrasted with his crisp and freshly laundered clothes. The smell of fabric conditioner mingled with nicotine and the new leather upholstery in the car. Rod could not shake the idea that the man in front of him was the same scrawny kid from school all those years ago.
“So this is your business, huh?” Rod asked.
“And business is booming, old friend.” Pointing to the bags with his cigarette hand, he continued, “We’re making a killing with this out here.”
Rod took a deep breath. He wondered whar would happen if the police suddenly stopped the car. All these bags out in the open! He crammed them back into the glove compartment and slammed it shut.
The journey was silent for the next few blocks. Finally Rod gathered his courage and said, “No. I can’t do it.”
Carlo snorted. “You’re missing out, you know. I showed them to you because I wanna share my blessings. I could never get that kind of money mopping floors or answering phones.”
Rod reflected on that. He thought of his mother, and all the years she came home late from overtime. He recalled the nights when he taught himself to cook among other chores as his mother was not around. And he remembered the nights he snuck downstairs and saw her face in her hands as she slumped over the dining table, a calculator and the month’s bills spread over it.
All of that gone in an instant with the help of that powder! Rod stole a glance at the glove compartment. Perhaps I was too hasty in saying no, he thought.
And then another image came up, that of his father lying face down on the sidewalk. His police uniform was bloody at the back from all the knife and bullet wounds. Bags of white powder were strewn on the street around him, some ripped open from the struggle moments before. The white powder mingled with the stream of blood flowing into the storm drain.
In the middle of it all was a young Rod, holding his father’s bloody officer’s hat in his hands. He remembered trembling as he approached the body, but it was not from the summer wind.
The image sent chills down Rod’s spine even as he was sitting at the car. He dug his fingernails into his knees. The sting inflamed his mind. That was the reason he said no now, and always said no before.
“Last chance,” Carlo whispered into Rod’s ear.
Rod shook his head. “It’s not worth it, Carlo.”
Carlo snorted. He slammed his feet on the brakes. The car screamed to a halt. Rod’s head whipped forward and slammed onto the seat. Everything was black for a second, then blurred. He shook his head vigorously and slapped his ears. The world cleared up and Rod gasped.
This was not a familiar part of the city. The skyscrapers and busy streets had given way to dark and disheveled tenement buildings and shanties. Rod’s scolded himself. He had beem focusing too long on the powder bags that he forgot where Carlo was taking him.
From the shanties emerged a group of six young men. They wore no shirts to show off their tanned skin and muscled arms. All of them were smirking and whispering excitedly to each other as they approached the car. One of them was brandishing a butterfly knife, opening and closing it in fluid motion. But Rod could not tear his gaze away from their bloodshot eyes, the veins almost eating away at whatever patch of white that remained.
“My boys are hungry,” Carlo said with a grin. “They’re coming like kids to an ice cream truck.”
The first of them, the one with the knife, threw himself at the passenger seat window. He slammed onto the glass with a loud thud. Rodolfo jumped in his seat, but was restrained by his seat belt. His heart was running a marathon. He could feel it slamming onto his ribcage like a mad animal trying to escape its cage. The images from that time flooded his vision; the present ceased to exist. He shut his eyes. Stay cool! Stay cool! Stay cool! Stay cool! He screamed the mantra in his head to dull the pounding in his chest and on the passenger seat window.
“Hey!” shouted Carlo next to him. “I just got this car! Watch the paint job!”
The pounding ceased. All fell silent at the command. Rod opened his eyes and saw the men fall in line next to the driver’s seat window. They held out their hands, their eyes pleading for their gifts. Carlo lowered the window and grabbed a couple of the bags on Rod’s lap. He gave two bags to each of them. “One for you, and the other to sell,” he told them. Pointing a thumb at Rod, he added, “And make sure you remember this guy’s face.” Once they had their bags, they scurried off into the shanties and disappeared from sight.
They drove on until they reached familiar roads and streets. Carlo said, “As you can see, I have a lot of satisfied customers. If you ever say a word, they will let me know. Last thing they want is their favorite product disappearing from the market.”
Rod nodded. He breathed a deep sigh, glad to be out of that place. He massaged his chest and found it sweaty under his shirt. He turned up the air conditioner and basked in the blast of cool air. It’s over, he told himself. You’re going to be okay. You’ve walked the knife’s edge and you’re all right.
“I’m only doing this as an old friend,” Carlo mumbled. “Anyone else who said no got left behind there. You wanna stay alive, stay clear of the police. Understood?”
Rod straightened up. He glanced at Carlo and replied, “Yeah. I’ll forget what I saw there.”
This time, Carlo nodded but with a smirk on his face.
The rest of the trip was silent except for the music from the radio. Scrolls and Pens Specialty Store loomed as the car drew near. Rod’s heart was thumping again. But this time it was due to excitement, and not fear.
TO BE CONTINUED
#KJaRt #KJwRite #vonagherrecitystories #KEVTALESCARVED #story #serial #mystery #message #onlinestory #OC